Can Migraine Lead to a Stroke?
Headaches can be persistent and unbearable at times, especially when it is a migraine. An agonizing and repeated headache may even make the sufferer think that it may be a stroke. Yes, there is a connection between stroke and migraine; however, the headache is not always the sign of a stroke. Ironically, people have a habit of jumping to conclusions without getting a proper diagnosis and knowledge of the condition. This stands especially true in cases of neurological disorders.
Adding to it, the most common questions that doctors come across is ‘Do I have migraine, or is this a stroke? and ‘Can my migraine lead to a stroke’? These questions pop-up in the sufferer’s mind because the warning signs of both the conditions are very similar and people have a limited understanding about the connection between the two.
Let’s walk through both the conditions and know more about them.
What is Migraine?
A headache that induces vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to smell, light and sound is a migraine. In many cases, the patient experiences numbness, visual disturbances and speech difficulties. The symptoms of migraine occur gradually and evolve as time passes while the headache intensifies.
On the other hand, flashing lights or zigzagging lines are the added stimuli that people experience in a migraine aura.
What is a Stroke?
Caused either by bleeding (hemorrhage) or blockage/clot in an artery of the brain (ischemic), stroke occurs suddenly unlike migraine. Common symptoms of stroke include instant and severe headache, disorientation, and slurred speech, numbness in one side of the body, dizziness, vision loss and trouble understanding speech.
How Are They Connected?
The relationship between migraine and stroke is complex and is still unfolding. Though migraine has not been shown to cause stroke, people suffering from migraine with aura are at a slightly higher risk of an ischemic stroke. It can either be caused because of a clot within the brain’s blood vessels or blood clot in the heart. This causes of ischemic stroke are known as thrombotic stroke and cardio-embolic stroke respectively. The risk of migraine followed by a stroke increases in women who are on birth-control pills and smoke. A few researchers have also found that migraine can lead to inflammation inside the arteries; thus, making them stiff and causing the blood to clot easily. The inflammation and stiffness of the arteries increase the chances of a stroke.
On the other hand, if someone is suffering from migraine without aura, the chances of stroke decrease but the risk of other heart-related problems goes up.
Can Migraine Lead to a Stroke?
Yes, migraine can lead to an ischemic stroke but the possibilities of the same are rare. This condition is known as Migrainous Infarction or migraine-induced stroke. Migrainous Infarction is uncommon and most of the people suffering from migraine will never experience this rare complication. The risk of migraine-related stroke is low. Also, not every stroke that occurs with migraine can be termed as Migrainous infarction. Only with the following characteristics it can be termed as a Migrainous infarction –
- When migraine is preceded by an aura
- The attack must have similar intensity to previous migraine attack
- The migraine continues for hours or days
- The sign of stroke is seen in an MRI or CT scan
How to Lower the Risk of Stroke When Suffering from Migraine with Aura
- Regular evaluation and treatment for conditions that may lead to a stroke
- Quitting smoking
- Using migraine preventive strategies
- Avoiding the use of contraceptives that contain estrogen
An article by Meera Deewan.